Cathleen Falsani (aka God Girl) caused quite a stir here at HuffPost when she cited my new book "Fall to Grace" as evidence of a potential "great gay awakening" in the evangelical church. The response was heated: 1,400 posts (and counting) filled with everything from enthusiastic support, to reasoned dissent, to emoticon-happy vitriol. Things got so unruly at Cathleen's own website that she shut down the comments thread and posted an instructional video on how to administer hugs. I'd like to challenge readers with a story about my own struggle to overcome the fear of judgment and live grace. During a trip to California a few years back, my then-wife Amanda and I were invited out to a drag show by RuPaul, the famous drag queen (recording artist, supermodel, VH1 talk-show host, etc.) who did the voice-over for the 2000 documentary about my mom, The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
The invitation came at a delicate moment in my own spiritual evolution. I was working my way toward becoming a gay-affirming pastor -- someone who welcomes gay people into the church without asking them to compromise their love or lifestyle -- but I hadn't yet declared this position publicly. Frankly, I was really nervous about how the Christian magazines and festival organizers and even some of my Christian friends would react if they knew I'd been to a drag show. I came up with lots of excuses not to accept the invitation: I told myself that I was trying to gradually bring conservative Christians around to a more loving and understanding attitude toward our LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) brothers and sisters in Christ. And I thought that meant not reinforcing stereotypes or inflaming fears about the gay community -- and you don't get more flaming than a RuPaul drag show!
In the end, I decided to overcome my fears and go. (When the queen of drag queens invites you to a drag show, you really don't have a choice.) Thank God I did. When we arrived at the club, RuPaul said hello and ushered us in past the crowd thronging outside. There were about ten of us in the VIP area. It was a very hip group including risqué celebrities like Dita Von Teese, the famous burlesque dancer who was married to the singer Marilyn Manson. The first half of the show passed without incident. Then, during intermission, I stepped outside to have a cigarette. While I was standing there, one of the drag queens -- a seven-foot tall black man in heels who was wearing a massive replica of the Eiffel Tower on his head -- approached to say that he was a preacher's kid too and that he had grown up in the church.
And then the emcee got real serious. Standing there in high heels and a sparkly dress, he said: "You know, this is where Jesus would be if He were alive today. Jesus hung out with the tax collectors and the prostitutes and the sinners ... " He then launched into a three-minute speech about how Jesus loved everybody without judgment. So there I was, stunned, not knowing what to make of this. One minute a drag queen was making cracks about whether I'm gay, and the next minute he was saying these really amazing things about Jesus and grace.
That night, at a burlesque club in Los Angeles, I saw people hungry for the love and truth of Christ. Not the judgment and rejection they'd experienced their whole lives in the church, but the real deal: revolutionary grace. That's what they welcomed into their midst. That's what grace is all about: loving one another and understanding one another and sharing in Christ together, no matter who we are or what others might think about it. Being at that drag show in L.A. challenged me to get outside my comfort zone. It taught me that grace crops up where you least expect it. It helped me to recognize that there can be no boundaries on God's love. I want to challenge everyone reading this to push yourself in this same way. What are the boundaries you put on grace? Are there places you won't go or people you won't socialize with for fear of judgment? Ask yourself: What are the rules I make up about who gets to sit at Christ's table? Then ask yourself: Are my rules consistent with grace?